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Portrait Medallion of Louis XIV

Listen as curator Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk describes the Portrait Medallion of Louis XIV, which is made of colorless glass that was cast and later cold-painted and mirrored. It is symbolic of the presentation and gift giving of the Sun King, and together with tapestries, silver and furniture, added to the diversity of artistic media, techniques and materials championed during the second half of the 17th century. It was made by Bernard Perrot, a talented glassmaker of Italian origin, who organized new glassworks in the city of Orleans, south of Paris. Although substantial in size (H: 36.5 cm) several such plaques were molded during the last quarter of the 17th century to be presented to foreign rulers, as were painted depictions and silver and gold coins. Two characteristics make these medallions interesting and special. First, unlike coins that could be melted down for their monetary value, these glass plaques, like tapestries, had primarily artistic value. Second, and perhaps more intriguing, they represent different portraits. As they were thought to document the history of Louis, these may have recorded the aging profile of the king. Serious thought may be given to the fact that one portrait could also represent the king's younger brother Philippe d'Orleans, who supported Perrot's enterprise, and thereby seems to have had a personal stake in the production of glass at the time.